Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Dudek looks to finally showcase his skillset in a make or break season for the Illini

Photo Credit: Damon Warren

Bad luck can happen to any human being at one point or another life. There are varying degrees as to the levels of luck and for Illinois Fighting Illini wide receiver Mike Dudek, two torn ACL’s have set him back over the past three seasons.

While most players might have moved on to other endeavors outside of football, Dudek’s never say die mentality has been a source of inspiration for other Illinois players to push forward in practices.

“Mike has come back a couple of times and knows he can. I don’t think it is a part of his mindset anymore,” Illinois coach Lovie Smith said. You want your upperclassmen to be an example and guys who are fighting through adversity have seen a Mike Dudek and what [he] has had to do to come back from injury.”

A lot of trust has been thrusted on Dudek to be a main contributor on offense and special teams despite missing five games last season with an injury, including the last four.

“It means a lot given what coach Smith knows the things I have been through and knows that I have been battling to get back to help this team,” Dudek said. “Football is a passion and is my life.”

While it feels like decades ago in college years for a player, Dudek’s capabilities to perform are not a question as he caught 1,038 yards as a freshman in 2014— his only full season.

Dudek will be a primary focus of a rebuilt offense with more emphasis on speeding the tempo as Smith hired Rod Smith as the offensive coordinator on Jan. 19 and brings a bevy of experience from schools such as Arizona and Michigan.

Lovie Smith believes the fifth-year senior will thrive in the new system and have ample opportunities.

Mike's had an excellent offseason. Completely healthy now,” Smith said. “And our new offense that we'll be running, he'll have an opportunity to be the featured guy and be able to -- we should see a lot of production from him.”

Illinois’ chances for improvement could hinge on Dudek and hopes to see a final run with a better ending than the last three seasons. 

The Mike Dudek file:

Class- Fifth-year senior

Height/Weight- 5-11, 195

High School- Neuqua Valley (Naperville, Ill.)

Notable career highlights- Led FBS freshmen in receiving yards per game with 79.8 in 2014 and is the school’s freshman record holder in receptions and receiving yards.

Social Media:

Follow Geno Green on Twitter @TheGenoGreen.